Against Ajax, Spurs lined up without conventional wingers, meaning the width was mostly provided by the two English full-backs; Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose.
After the game’s momentum turned with the introduction of Moussa Sissoko, both Tripper and Rose were getting into more advanced positions, Rose in particular in acres of space at times. With the towering presence of Fernando Llorente to aim for, surely they would cause problems for the young Ajax defence?
Unfortunately, they struggled to provide the telling cross that led to a breakthrough, but the statistics highlight how bad they really were.
According to WhoScored, Juan Foyth – who came on an 80th-minute sub – completed the most crosses of any Tottenham player. The insurmountable number? Just 2.
Danny Rose – known for his the marauding runs – attempted three crosses but completed just one in 80 minutes of playing time.
Kieran Trippier, or the ‘Bury Beckham’ as he was known during the World Cup, had five attempted crosses during the game, with a grand total of one finding its target.
This is clearly not the level of quality required in a Champions League semi-final, and even if we do progress, Spurs will hardly have either Barcelona or Liverpool quaking in their boots.
It may seem unfair to single out the two full-backs in a game where so many players were below par, but both are now senior players at 28 years of age and should be more consistent at this stage in their careers.
Some would point to Llorente’s lack of movement as an excuse, but the truth is both full-backs have been pretty poor in the final third for some time now.
Full-backs are a key part of the modern game, tasked with getting through a lot of work at both ends of the pitch, but the best ones still manage to produce an end product. While Rose at least has a reasonably solid defensive game to make up for his wayward crossing, Trippier, unfortunately, does not.
Many Spurs fans, myself included, were not too concerned when we lost Kyle Walker for £50 million, precisely because his end product was so poor. However, his first year at City was a revelation, with Pep Guardiola instructing him to make simple pull-back passes from the byline rather than crossing from deep – a tweak that gained him an impressive seven assists for Man City in his first season. Maybe it’s time for Pochettino to give similar instructions to ex-winger Rose?
Unfortunately, whether it’s a lack of form, tiredness or tactics, currently the two full backs do not have the desired end product needed to take this team to the fabled ‘next level’ we’ve all heard so much about. If they both continue to miss their mark, it could be time for fresh blood on the Tottenham flanks.